Psycho's tactics have been lambasted - but for the most part this has been lazy, partisan criticism. There were certainly strategic problems, but I despair when I see slapdash phrases such as tactically inept, or worse, naïve. It makes me suspect the critic doesn't know what they're talking about, or has not bothered to analyse what they have seen.
Saturday's loss against Millwall was far from their worst performance of the season - Forest were unlucky, but Pearce did not help matters by employing, in my opinion, the wrong pressing system. Forest pressed conditionally, allowing The Lions to have the ball in safe areas instead of taking the game to them.
The pressing game has become important under Pearce - his experience of football outside of The Championship has been an asset in this regard. There has been more uniformity on a match to match basis - more of an advanced stratagem. Individuals have been doing little things like 'halving the pitch', and trying to manipulate the opposition into playing the ball where Forest want them to.
But an oversight by Pearce was, in my opinion, that Forest don't have players as good as those he had watched employ these techniques while learning about the game elsewhere.
The Bournemouth game was a good example; the players were not intelligent enough to press high up the pitch while in a 4-4-2, and The Cherries found space easily. Only some heroic defending kept Pearce's men in the game until he changed the formation.
Pearce's lack of experience at this level caused problems. Often the most important thing in the high energy bluster of The Championship is whether the players are leaving themselves vulnerable - for example not pressing properly or straying out of position. Pearce, in my opinion, did not know what his players were capable of in match conditions.
But it also showed he could assess and adjust - the change Pearce made (he switched to a longer formation, the 4-2-3-1) eliminated much of the space Forest were neglecting and led to a Forest victory (see diagram, right. All pictures on Forest Boffin can be enlarged when clicked).
But the pressing game continued to be an issue for Pearce - and he often had to rethink his strategy in this regard, and how it was applied.
Another tactical issue was Pearce's repeated failure to get the numerical balance right in midfield. This was often a result of his choice of how narrow he would set his side up - he got this wrong on several occasions, particularly at home.
The Norwich game is a good example; Michail Antonio & Tom Ince were instructed to stay out wide to provide an outlet, and flank the narrow Canaries midfield. But the Forest midfielders became overrun in central areas, and by the time Pearce made changes to rescue the game they were already losing - although it has to be said against the run of play.
Leeds was another example - here an experimenting Pearce changed formation to a 3-5-2, wanting numbers in the middle but width as well. Again, this did not work, as Leeds pressed the defenders and defensive midfielder aggressively; the ball could not get out wide often enough and the wide men became isolated.
Against Birmingham, Pearce attempted to pre-empt the problem by instructing his wide men to come inside when possible to bolster this area - but The Blues took advantage of this and their wide midfielders has a free reign, hurting Forest at will, because their full-backs needed less support.
The problems in finding the right balance and Pearce's subsequent, frenzied attempts to find a solution - he rarely used the same midfield - is a similar issue to the pressing game - a clear case of Pearce learning on the job.
Another issue has been the direct style of football we have seen this season. Pearce had got this right at the start of the season; Forest were playing the ball out of the defence to Chris Cohen and Andy Reid, who were getting The Reds moving by playing the ball forward.
Their injuries were tactical disasters - Pearce simply did not have an answer for losing these two key midfield generals, when the other players did not have the ability or gumption to get on the ball in this busy area of the pitch.
This led to the midfield being bypassed, as the defenders did not have an outlet. We know from his interviews that Pearce did not intend - initially at least - for Forest to play direct football, but with the midfielders unwilling to get on the ball, the defenders had to play it forward themselves.
It was clear to me that Pearce needed to settle on two players to replace Reid and Cohen, and leave them in the team so they could build an understanding, but his constant shuffling in this area of the pitch was disruptive - although no tactics or poor motivation can excuse players as skilful as Henri Lansbury making the conscious decision to become a passenger.
The victory against Reading is a good example of this; already winning 1-0 at half time, Pearce made the unorthodox move in changing the shape, from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1, enabling Forest to dominate in the centre where before they had only been doing so in wide areas.
The two games against Derby are probably the best examples of Pearce getting things right - I could (and should have) written reams about the second game, such was the success of his strategies.
Forest's pressing game was organised to neutralise Derby's possession in their own half - particularly aimed at their defenders who like to hog the ball. A good illustration of how well this was accomplished is how much possession the Derby defenders had; they touched the ball significantly less against Forest (174 & 184 times collectively) than in any other games this season (they averaged 254 times per game at the time - but sometimes had as many as 350 touches).
The Reds were also able to win most of the second balls in midfield, and midfielders were perfectly organised in covering the defenders and tracking back - most importantly when to track back, and when to let them go. Pearce is particularly good tactically at the game of cat-and-mouse on the flanks, and it has lead to several Forest goals this season - including the fabulous Ben Osborn strike against Derby.
While it is clear Stuart Pearce got a lot of things wrong, the games where he had success seem to have been overlooked. I can think of many occasions where he was significantly out-manoeuvred; Brentford, Ipswich, Charlton and Leeds spring to mind - but I can think of a similar amount of games where, in my judgement, he did well tactically - games like the two Derby encounters, Wolves, Bournemouth and Sheffield Wednesday away, and the Spurs game.
It is clear that much of what Pearce was doing tactically was from the 'suck it and see' school of thought - it was reactive management rather than proactive, and even if he made the right changes on every occasion (he didn't of course), it's not good to be giving your opponents a head start.
The experimental nature of Pearce's tactics after losing key men Reid and Cohen - and his tendency to improve the situation through changes - is hinted at when looking at the time of goals scored and conceded; Forest often went behind in games, only to recover towards the end.
Losing the two central midfielders - and their replacement's inability to carry out the same tasks - sent Pearce back to the drawing board. I think he overestimated the squad's ability - and inclination - to work under pressure, and from game 7 onwards he has been experimenting.
I'm disappointed with several of the high profile Forest players - it is clear some of them did not buy into Pearce's tactical solutions. The likes of David Vaughan, Henri Lansbury, Kelvin Wilson, Michael Mancienne and Jamie Paterson could probably get into any team in the league - they have all gone missing at times when Pearce - and Forest - needed them.
And it's all very well saying things like "Pearce had lost the dressing room" and "they thought he was talking rubbish" - but unless the manager was telling them not to track runs, or telling the central defenders to shirk responsibility and hope somebody else deals with the problem, or asking Henri Lansbury not to want the ball... unless Pearce was telling players to not put in 100% - they are as much to blame (if not more so) as the deposed manager.
The tactics were wrong at times - but it is too simplistic to cite this as the cause of Forest's failed promotion bid; Pearce got as much right as he did wrong, which is why The Reds are mid-table and not in the bottom three.
We will never know whether Forest would have continued to decline under Pearce - although they were probably still earning enough points for Championship safety. Personally I think they would have improved - especially upon the return of Andy Reid, a player so important to the initial tactics which saw Forest top the league.
For footballing reasons, this is the most understandable of the sackings under Fawaz Al-Hasawi - but since we're talking strategy, you have to question that of the owner - the wisdom of employing a manager with no Championship experience has to be questioned, if immediate success was expected. It was an error as poor as any tactical gaffe on the pitch this season.
Thanks for reading - and I would like to put on record my thanks to Stuart Pearce for all he has achieved at Nottingham Forest - both as a player and a manager. He's not a Forest legend - he's one of us.