The nauseating wait to see what the future holds continues for Aston Villa's fans. Villa are currently stuck in a holding pattern as owner Randy Lerner aims to sell the storied club and end his Premier League involvement.
Lerner experienced some early highs in his time at Villa Park by investing significantly to build a talented team that routinely skirted close to a top-four spot but never managed to truly break into the league's upper echelon.
Villa's inability to fully attain their goals eventually led Lerner to reduce his spending and has set Villa on a worrying decline over the past four seasons, finally culminating in Lerner's decision to move on this summer.
While a buyer for the club has yet to materialize, recent news indicates that the American businessman is keen to expedite the sale of the club, a relief for fans who must be eager for the situation to resolve itself.
The Mirror's Alan Nixon has reported that Lerner has lowered his asking price by £50 million from his original £200 million valuation. Nixon's report also states that a potential buyer from the Middle East is now being targeted, a departure from Lerner's original intent to find another American owner.
Lerner's desire to move on with the sale is an encouraging sign for Villa fans. The longer that the Birmingham club is without an owner, the worse off they will be, and the price reduction will attract potential buyers.
Nonetheless, every day that passes with Villa in ownership limbo brings lost opportunities and greater challenges to overcome in the season ahead.
Should Lambert Stay or Go?
Paul Lambert's future at Villa Park will be a key deciding factor that will shape Villa heading into next season.
Support for the Scotsman has dwindled over time; calls for his sacking have dominated the atmosphere surrounding Villa over the past few months.
Villa's eventual new owner's first course of action must be to decide whether or not to retain Lambert. While keeping the manager will frustrate many fans, sacking Lambert becomes an increasingly unattractive option the longer a search for a new owner takes.
A new manager will take time to fully adjust to the team, properly appraise his players, target transfer signings and forge an identity for the team. Villa's squad needs a lot of work, and a new manager will need every day of the summer to alter and improve the team.
Sacking Lambert may lift morale and allow for a fresh approach, but a potential replacement would face a tough challenge if they were to take over the club today, with just over two months to prepare for the new season. Expecting them to thrive with even less time is extremely optimistic.
Martin O'Neill's sudden resignation in 2010 perfectly showcases this dilemma. Finding themselves without a coach just days before the start of a new season, Villa were not able to improve through the transfer window and never formed a cohesive team under Gerard Houllier.
Villa's current squad is considerably weaker than the unit Houllier inherited. If the team faced a similarly sudden upheaval entering this season, it is very likely that the turmoil would see the Villans relegated from the Premier League for the first time in their history.
Transfer Window Stagnancy
In addition to resolving the coaching situation, the arrival of a new owner will also allow for Villa to begin strengthening their squad through the transfer window rather than languish in uncertainty.
It is still early in the summer, and the World Cup will have a large impact on the decisions of many clubs, but until Lerner sells the club, Lambert has little ability to begin making signings. Players who could help Villa are already being targeted and signed by rival clubs.
For example, Ryan Bertrand had a successful loan spell at Villa Park this season, filling in admirably at left-back. Bertrand would be an ideal long-term signing for the club, but rumours linking the player with a move to Hull City suggest Villa may miss out on re-signing the Englishman.
With each passing day, Villa's potential transfer targets are only more likely to secure moves elsewhere. Villa may have lost many players to injury last season, but relying on the current squad to markedly improve is far too risky.
While many Villa fans may be enjoying a peaceful respite from the roller coaster of a season they endured, the longer the sale of the club drags out, the worse things will be for Aston Villa.
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