O'Leary's transfer plans clouded by takeover talks

O'Leary fears that unless the situation quickly improves, then Villa almost certainly face a scrap to avoid relegation, with the club currently just two places and two points above the bottom three. With Martin Laursen out until the summer with a knee injury, and Olof Mellberg and Liam Ridgewell currently struggling both for form and to create a partnership, the re-opening of the window in January cannot come soon enough for the manager.

O'Leary has been linked with a move for Spartak Moscow's Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic this week after undertaking a spying mission to Russia at the weekend. But the future of the club is up in the air, with negotiations understood to start this week with the property development company Comer Homes Group regarding a £64m buy-out.

Any takeover could lead to O'Leary being handed a crucial transfer kitty, but with just nine weeks to go until the transfer window, the clock is ticking on those talks.

O'Leary said: "I know what is needed. From day one this season we have given away too many easy goals and made life very hard for ourselves, and that is why we are where we are in the league.

"We are gifting teams big advantages and we are not good enough to give them those advantages and have to start pulling it back. What the whole club needs is two solid centre-halves who can win the ball whenever it comes into our box. That gives everybody a lift - all around the team.

"Manchester City had [Sylvain] Distin who cost £5m, while [former City manager] Kevin Keegan paid £4m for David Sommeil. Plus, at the other end, they were a threat from set-plays. Why weren't we a threat from set-plays? Because we haven't got powerful enough centre-halves. Does this surprise me? No."

O'Leary now has to prevent his side coming off the rails and he is demanding a response from his players. "Only time will tell whether we pull away or not," he added. "We have been our own worst enemy so far this season and that has to stop. I am aware of our problems - now doing something about it is the thing.

"We've got to move on and life is going to be hard, particularly if we continue conceding the sort of goals we're conceding at the moment. We need plenty of character and we've got to stand up and be counted. We've got to start showing more hunger and stop giving away soft goals. If we don't do that, we could be in trouble."