"I didn't expect the other team to show more desire but I am just being honest," he said.
"I am not telling anyone anything they didn't see themselves. I have known the frailties in the team from day one."
Indeed, Hughes pointed out the frailties in private discussions with chairman Sheikh Mansoor and chief executive Garry Cook more than a month ago.
"You need leaders, people who drive the game and affect it in a positive way," he said.
"If we have more than one, two or three players below their best then we struggle to win games. We have shown that throughout the season."
City might have conceded before Nathan Tyson's sensational first-half volley, which was followed four minutes later by Robert Earnshaw steering home an off-target Matt Thornhill effort.
If the Blues were the architects of their own downfall on that occasion given Pablo Zabaleta lost possession close to the touchline, it was nothing compared to Dietmar Hamann's woeful throw-in that gifted Joe Garner the visitors' third.
"All credit to Nottingham Forest," reflected Hughes, whose side were following up an equally early Carling Cup demise at Brighton.
"Now we have to pick ourselves up, knowing it is perfectly clear the squad as it is cannot compete on a number of fronts."