O'Neill's side fell off the pace after they were badly affected by a lack of depth in the squad, which was shown by the loss of key players like Martin Laursen, who has since retired.
But there is a feeling at Villa Park this season that they have learned from their failings by bulking up their ranks with the likes of Richard Dunne, James Collins, Stewart Downing, Stephen Warnock, Fabian Delph and Habib Beye all arriving in the summer.
There has also been a rebuilding project coming to fruition at White Hart Lane, where Harry Redknapp's Tottenham have mounted their assault on a Champions League berth and currently occupy the coveted fourth position.
And with the two teams locking horns on Saturday evening, O'Neill has earmarked Spurs as Villa's biggest rivals to claim a top-four finish, but the Northern Irishman is hoping his fifth-placed side can draw level on points this weekend with maximum points.
"Tottenham are very strong," the Villa boss told the Daily Mirror.
"They have a chance to challenge that top four because they have the wherewithal to do it.
"But we will throw absolutely everything at it.
"It will be a tough ask this season again but it's our aim.
"That's what we want to do as we'd love to be playing Champions League football eventually.
"I am hoping we can hang in and get a few results so supporters stay with us, thinking something may happen.
"We love a challenge and we get excited by it all.
"But the fact is the top four have been the top four because they have been the four best sides through the course of the season.
"Teams can have little runs at it but Everton are the only team to have broken it in the last six years.
"I just think from our point of view, consistency over a lengthy period of the season is vital.
"We had an experience of it last season, we were going along nicely until February time.
"We had a number of points on the board and perhaps if we had a bigger squad we may have been able to cope a bit better."
Liverpool are the team who currently look like they could relinquish a Champions League position this season, whereas it was Arsenal whose place in Europe's elite competition looked in jeopardy last term.
But O'Neill has called for his side to look beyond the Reds' problems and aspire to emulate the winning mentality of pace-setters Chelsea if they are to become a Premier League force.
"We need to improve technically, which is obviously very important," he added.
"I want the whole side to be comfortable on the ball. I want players to not be overly concerned about receiving the ball under pressure.
"Look at Chelsea - they are so strong. I think they have a great mentality, work ethic and they are physically very strong.
"Now they have been there for four or five years, it is almost burned into them that winning football games is what it's all about.
"We need that winning mentality too - that is so, so important. I can't stress it enough."
Prem W/out Top 4 2009/10 Win Outright: Aston Villa 11/2