Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has been linked with a move for Newcastle United's unsettled Obafemi Martins as he looks to strengthen his striking options.

The 23-year-old Nigerian international, who will not return from the African Nations Cup until next month, is said to be unhappy with life in the North-east since Sam Allardyce, who parted company with the club yesterday, took over and decided to use him wide rather than as an out-and-out central striker.

According to reports, Villa and Manchester City have made inquiries about Martins, who signed for Newcastle from Inter Milan for £10 million in August 2006.

However, Allardyce had said he was not interested in losing any of his side unless replacements were already in place and it would take a sizeable bid to persuade Newcastle to sell Martins, who has scored seven times this season.

Allardyce's departure could make it even tougher to prise the player away from Tyneside as Martins may decide to wait and see who will take over.

It could also affect Newcastle's reported interest in Villa defender Martin Laursen. The Danish international, who is out of contract in the summer, had said he would be interested in a move to Newcastle or Tottenham Hotspur, who were also linked with him. As a result, some kind of deal involving both Martins and Laursen could have been an option in the next few weeks.

It is likely Villa's reported inquiry is a tentative one as Martins would take a sizeable chunk of any money O'Neill has to strengthen the squad, which he has admitted is something he is planning to do during the transfer window.

A striker is certainly a priority for O'Neill as he has few options in attack should anything happen to John Carew or Gabriel Agbonlahor. Ashley Young looks more dangerous in wide positions than down the middle, Luke Moore is unhappy at the lack of opportunities he has had and Marlon Harewood has failed to make his mark at Villa Park.

Villa have also been linked with moves for Tottenham Hotspur's England international Jermaine Defoe and Reading's Kevin Doyle who O'Neill could get a good look at again this Saturday when Steve Coppell's side come to Villa Park. Reports suggest that Defoe will be allowed to leave White Hart Lane for £10 million after he stalled on signing a new contract following a lack of first-team starts, and that Villa have already lodged an interest with Spurs' chairman Daniel Levy.

However, the 25-year-old is said to be holding out for a move to one of the Premier League's big four clubs.

And it isn't just in attack that O'Neill is looking to strengthen he has been linked with a possible move for Tottenham defender Pascal Chimbonda.

O'Neill will not comment on potential targets but did say he was expecting to be busy over the next few weeks. He said: "There will be things happening here between now and the end of January which I think will benefit the club and the players."

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Scott Carson believes the abundance of top strikers in the Barclays Premier League has made the league the most exciting yet, even if it makes his job much more difficult. Saturday's opponents Reading have already been involved in a couple of goal-fests this season, losing 7-4 to Portsmouth and 6-4 to Tottenham.

He said: "They have scored a lot of goals but conceded a lot too. That seems to be the trend throughout the Premier League this season. We certainly got a fair share at Tottenham too.

"I think the number of goals must go down to the quality of the attacking play this season. There has been a bit of fortune in some goals but I feel the finishing in the Premier League at the moment is second to none.

"It's so hard for goalkeepers because it seems the strikers are scoring with every chance. I just need to save everything I can."