What came first? The Forest or the misery? Do we watch Forest because we're miserable, or are we miserable because we watch Forest? It's an interesting philosophical question (sort of) put forward by Nick Hornby in High Fidelity, but if it's the latter then there's something wrong with all of us and we need help, or to go for a run or something.
Actually, Forest's 1-0 defeat to Brighton on the opening day wasn't especially crushing, because while obviously losing is not as good as winning or even drawing (we have a firm grasp on this football business at In The Top One), it's the first game of the season and in the grander scheme of things the result means four fifths of eff all. And after all, Forest have won the season opener in the last three season, and look where that got us.
What might be a smidge more troubling is some of the elements in the performance that are so achingly familiar. The use of Michael Mancienne at every position apart from the one he's really good in. The long balls. Henri Lansbury misjudging a tackle and going in on someone's shins in the first ten minutes. The belief that Dexter Blackstock is a target man. The tactic of giving the thing to Michail Antonio and seeing what happens. Danny Fox.
Maybe Dougie Freedman is a keen tactical historian. Perhaps he's familiar with the work of Wing Commander Charles Reep, an amateur statistician who in the 1950s figured out that the average number of passes that led to a goal was three, and that most goals originate from mistakes by the opposition. Thus, the key to having an effective football team, particularly when you have rather limited resources with which to work, is not to construct beautiful passing moves that shift the opposition hither and thither, but to hoy the thing to one end of the pitch as quickly as possible and wait for the opposing defence to make a muff of something.
The theory is objectively flawed for reasons that are too long and tedious to go into here, but it's also subjectively flawed because those tactics are so heinous to watch. Forest didn't do that all of the time against Brighton, but they did so enough to make it particularly irksome. To watch Henri Lansbury, on his day arguably the best midfielder in the division, bypassed so readily is sigh-inducing.
Perhaps we shouldn't be too harsh on Freedman, because he is after all operating under extremely tricky circumstances, having perhaps his three most important players out injured and not able to sign real replacements, but it is vexing to think that even with the players he has, he's not making the most of them.
The only goal of the game had been coming, but was still avoidable. It was clear from the first stages of the game that Forest were sitting far too deep when Brighton attacked, giving them time to basically do whatever they wanted with the ball, when they wanted. That finally came to bite Forest when Lewis Dunk meandered up to about the 40-year mark, fed Kazenga LuaLua who was shown onto his (as it turns out quite decent) left-foot by Eric Lichaj and fired it home. It was a fine finish, but sweet fancy Moses it was too easy.
Hesitant. Slipshod. Negative. Forest were like a teen who couldn't draw or paint sitting a GCSE art exam, the whole room staring... #nffc— Garibaldi Gallant (@TheGaribaldiG) August 7, 2015
Still, positives. As James Bolton pointed out on View From The Main Stand, it looks an awful lot like Karl Darlow and Jamaal Lascelles won't be missed too much, just as they weren't excessively missed when they were out of the team last season. Dorus De Vries produced a Courtoisian save to keep Forest level in the first half, and Matt Mills was solid enough, even if a partnership of him and Jack Hobbs does raise certain mobility questions. Additionally Lansbury played a few of those passes, Tyler Walker looked lively when he came on (even if he did miss a very presentable chance and kicked Jamie Ward in the Achilles as he was about to take a shot) and in the spirit of really taking the positives, there's no possible way that Daniel Pinillos can be as bad as Danny Fox.
Ach, you know. It was the first game of the season. It's not even nearly the start of the end of the world. Forest will (probably) get better. And England are going to win the Ashes tomorrow at the home of cricket. It's all OK.