Last weekend wasn't fun for Villa fans. Defeat at the hands of Man City isn't the worst thing, but as we know, this squad is incredibly fragile when it comes to confidence. With that in mind, I suppose it's a good thing that we have such a quick turnaround, as it gives the players a chance to move on quickly after crashing out of the FA Cup. But standing in the way of our attempt to bounce back is West Ham, who welcome Villa to London on Tuesday evening. To check in on how the opposition is feeling ahead of February's first match, we got in touch with West Ham Social, who you can follow on twitter here.
It's only been about a month since we last met, which ended in a 1-1 draw. Villa have seen a bit of a mini-renaissance in the past few weeks, but how've things been for the Hammers since then?
WHS: It's been great to be honest. Prior and up to the Aston Villa game, we had become the draw specialists and not won in 7 games.
Our squad was severely injury depleted for that whole duration, the positive was we were still picking up points home & away and remained in the top half. Since the Villa game, we have been on an excellent run and have played some top entertaining football. We got our talisman back in Dimitri Payet, which would be a massive plus for any side.
Is a top four finish out of reach? Meanwhile, a spot in Europe is far from certain, with the gap between 6th and 11th only 5 points. I guess my question is, are you looking up the table to catch those ahead of you, or are you okay with just staying ahead of the pack behind you?
WHS: It would be easy to get carried away with Champions League talk in light of recent form/performances, however the league is so open this season so we wouldn't completely rule out a 4th place finish. If we can keep our key players injury free and continue to play with the intensity we did say against Man City, we can do it. At the start of the season though, if someone would have offered 7th/8th with a secure stable season before the stadium move, I think all hammers fans would have taken that - so anything above this is a bonus.
It's really a shame that Carl Jenkinson suffered his injury - I've come to really like him as a player. How will you replace him going forward? It looks like he'll be returning to Arsenal for treatment, and after two successful loan spells to West Ham, how do you think his long-term injury affects his future with the Hammers? Do you think he'll be back to Upton Park?
WHS: He's a good attacking full-back, which Bilic likes to have in his set-up, but Carl has had a difficult second spell with West Ham. He never hit the ground running from the first game he played this season. Maybe this was due to lack of pre-season, but his confidence has been low since he returned. For him to get injured at this stage is a blow and it's a shame for him. He has scored a couple of important goals for the team this season, so that shouldn't be forgotten. We have brought in young Sam Byram at the perfect time it seems - a quick, skillful and attacking minded right back. We have James Tomkins as a credible RB option as well, so we doubt very much Jenkinson will play for West Ham again. We wish him the best for the future.
This game will take place after the window closes, but I'll ask the question anyways so we can look back to see how accurate you were - do you anticipate any moves in the last few days of the transfer window?
WHS: At this moment in time, it looks like a loan deal for Emmanuel Emenike from Fenerbahce has been agreed, pending a medical. This would be until the end of the season with an option to buy. With all things going to plan, he may be in the squad for Tuesday night. There are some reports of a third arrival, although a name at this stage has not been made public. We shall see!
What about the January business as a whole? In came Sam Byram, out went Matt Jarvis and Mauro Zarate. Thoughts on those moves?
WHS: Very impressive once again from our owners. They have filled in the voids were Bilic highlighted weaknesses / lack of depth in the team. Sam Byram is an excellent signing from Leeds, he had other clubs interested in him and almost joined Everton after having a medical, but opted to chose West Ham because of our ambition and Bilic's philosophy.
Just from his debut alone against Man City, his class and level headed attitude at this level was clear to see, a great prospect for the future.
We were slightly surprised by the departure of Zarate, he had become a very popular figure with the fans this season. Unfortunately though, a player or two had to go to make way for new arrivals due to FFP rulings.
As good as Zarate could be at times, his sometimes greedy attitude and a tendency to sulk when played out of a favoured position didn't impress Bilic - so in the end I think it was the right move for both parties. Same with Jarvis, he just doesn't fit into the system and without being disrespectful; we have players with more ability in those roles now.
What happened against Newcastle a few weeks ago? I doubt many people saw that result coming, since it was your first league loss since November.
WHS: We don't think any of us expected such a poor performance. We lost the game in the first 15/20 minutes due to such a slow start and it cost us. We never got control of the midfield throughout the game and never really looked like getting much from it.
Maybe a bit of complacency come into it with the run we'd had & the travelling that week may not of helped either - playing Bournemouth and then Newcastle days apart. Ultimately though, we just were not good enough of the day.
Can we expect to see a similar side from West Ham that we drew against last month? Obviously Bilic will be forced into a few changes, with Jenkinson injured and Zarate gone, but will he continue with the 4-2-3-1 shape that we saw last time?
WHS: Bilic does usually favour the 4-2-3-1 set-up, but against Man City he opted for a 4-1-4-1 system which we feel worked perfectly.
By having Alex Song sitting in a defensive mid role, he allowed more room for Noble & Kouyate to dictate the play. With the work rate of Antonio & Payet on the wings, it gives a much more balanced feel to the side both attacking and defensively, so we could see him using this again.
Let's say that after the match, you get to go on the Villa bus and pick a single player to keep for West Ham. Who would you be taking off that bus?
WHS: Adama Traore - he has a lot to learn still, especially work ethic, but he is young and has a lot of potential. Quick, skillful and powerful - all the attributes which Bilic would like in his team.
Our thanks again to everyone at West Ham Social! Be sure to follow along with them during the match for an opposition's perspective!