By Chris Myson
Anticipation is already building ahead of the new Premier League season, with the transfer window racing along at a fast pace as sides try to complete their signings and hold on to their stars.
Pre-season action is also coming thick and fast, with almost all the 20 top-flight clubs having been involved in matches as they aim to get their players up to full fitness and match sharpness.
While they are often derided, friendly matches do give supporters the opportunity to get an early look at any summer signings made by their teams and the early stages of pre-season have seen some impressive performances.
Almost all of the new arrivals have made their mark despite the fact most teams have only featured in a handful of matches so far, which will encourage fans ahead of the start of the season.
At Manchester United, Shinji Kagawa made his first start for the club in the 1-1 draw against Ajax Cape Town and impressed operating in a central role behind Chicharito.
His movement, energy and link-up play will have encouraged fans who are desperately hoping he can prove to be the answer to their perceived midfield weakness and lack of creativity.
Kagawa’s record at former club Borussia Dortmund was impressive and he showed he also has an eye for goal by earning a golden opportunity to score, but he wasted the headed chance which could have put the icing on the cake after an encouraging performance.
Starlet Nick Powell - brought in from Crewe - also got a 25-minute run-out and the youngster looked confident amongst his more senior teammates.
Chelsea will also be pleased with the way their new additions are taking to life in a Blue shirt. It was £32 million (€40m) signing Eden Hazard who ensured he stole the headlines in their 4-2 win over Seattle Sounders early in the week, the Belgian scoring with a deflected effort and generally looking lively.
Arguably even more impressive, though, was another recent signing, Marko Marin. The German attacking midfielder linked up superbly with his team-mates, particularly Hazard, and scored a goal of his own by cutting inside onto his right foot.
The German spent extra hours at the training ground preparing for the new campaign while many of the squad were either at Euro 2012 or away on holiday and that work appears to be paying off so far.
Kevin De Bruyne is another new player to the ranks at Stamford Bridge and he came off the bench in the second half and came close to scoring. The European champions will be looking forward to seeing more of their midfield trio.
Following their win over Seattle, Roberto Di Matteo's men faced French big-spenders PSG and both Marin and Hazard were again involved in the game that finished 1-1. It was Brazilian youngster Lucas Piazon, however, that grabbed the headlines as his late equaliser claimed a draw for the Blues.
Chelsea’s former manager, Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas, will have been pleased with what he saw from his Premier League new boys as Spurs defeated Stevenage 2-0.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, who almost joined Liverpool before opting for north London, scored a goal and Jan Vertonghen produced a solid display in defence. Tougher tests are still to come but it appears chairman Daniel Levy has spent effectively on the duo.
Mladen Petric was an impressive performer over the last seven days too. Fulham signed the 31-year-old from Hamburg and he has certainly hit the ground running, scoring a double to earn Martin Jol's men a 2-2 draw against Kaiserslautern, following on from his goal in the 4-0 win over Lokomotive Leipzig three days earlier.
New Newcastle signing Gael Bigirimana earned an assist to set up Mehdi Abeid’s goal in their 1-1 draw against Fenerbahce, while Steven Naismith made his debut for Everton in a clash against Motherwell which ended in the same scoreline.
New Aston Villa signing Karim El Ahmadi is another who is earning positive reviews so far in pre-season. The midfielder played his part in two consecutive 1-0 victories for the Villans on their tour of the USA and looks like he will be an important part of the first-team picture under Paul Lambert.