About time Aston Villa upped the ante in the transfer market… isn’t it?

Martin O’Neill has brought promise to Aston Villa. Building a squad stocked full of young English talent, the likes of Gabby Agbonlahor, Ashley Young and James Milner can dominate the Premiership for years to come and become regular fixtures in the England side. But while Villa always seem to be in the hunt to break up the top four and claim that elusive final Champions League place, they usually falter in January/February time due to a lack of squad depth. Villa certainly need to spend in the summer in order to make the leap to a top-four club, and while they can’t compete financially with the likes of Man City, O’Neill may need to look overseas in order to find the right players.

Since taking over the reigns at Villa Park in 2006, O’Neill has mainly bought English players for his team, and even the foreign players he has bought have previously played in the Premiership or the SPL. While it is good to bring in home-grown talent, you could claim that English players are extremely overpriced compared to the quality of a foreign player you could buy much cheaper. The likes of Milner, Young, Warnock, Dunne and Davies have been great for Villa, but constantly buying just English players is not enough, there needs to be a blend of English and foreign players.

The area that Villa really need to improve is their strike force. John Carew is in and out of O’Neill’s doghouse, Emile Heskey is Emile Heskey and will score once every 6 months, while Agbonlahor is not a prolific scorer. Villa need a striker that can get them 15-20 goals a season, and propel them to the next level. O’Neill may be wary of bringing in foreign imports, especially because of previous flops signed under previous managers, such as Bosko Balaban and Juan Pablo Angel. Even though he had one good season at Villa Park, Angel had indifferent seasons in the other two, and O’Neill would prefer to bring in a striker that knows the Premier League and can contribute right away, instead of having to adapt to the style of the Premiership.

So who can O’Neill bring in to bolster his faltering frontline? Obviously Villa don’t have the money or prestige to attract an Aguero, a David Villa or a Pato. But in terms of English talent, Carlton Cole may be an option, but unless West Ham are relegated, then the striker will cost big money and Villa may have to spend over the odds to sign him. From the continent, I think Bordeaux’s Marouane Chamakh could do a good job, even though he is being chased by Arsenal and there are constant rumours of the Moroccan striker signing a pre-contract deal at the Emirates. Milan’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar could be another option, as Milan are reportedly unimpressed with the Dutchman’s form this season since buying him from Real Madrid last summer, and he could leave the San Siro for the right price. Benfica’s Oscar Cardozo and Rangers’ Kris Boyd have also been linked with a move to Villa Park in recent weeks.

Whoever O’Neill decides to bring in, it needs to be a quality player that shows a signal of intent that Villa want to break into the top four. But looking at O’Neill’s usual practice in the transfer market, that player will probably be British, or at least someone who plays in the Premiership. And with Man City set to spend even more money in the summer and probably overhaul their current squad, O’Neill will have to move fast if he wants to move Villa forward.

What do you think? Who do Villa need to sign to take them to the next level?

Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tomjinks