Joachim Löw listened to the question, took a breath and then rapidly embarked upon a lengthy answer. Löw speaks about football in broad and defined strokes, not the small snippets preferred by so many other managers. He does not always reveal his deepest thoughts, but he always shares enough to provide a window into his thought process.
On this night, Löw expounded upon why his revamped Germany permitted Scotland to hang around and nearly snatch a point at Signal-Iduna Park. This sort of performance — dominant in the early stages and a bit sloppy after the interval before another Thomas Muller intervention salvaged a 2-1 victory — fell short of the lofty standards set forth by the world champions over the past few years.
Löw knew it. He said as much moments earlier in his opening remarks. He noted first and foremost that he wanted the points. The rest — the inevitable teething ahead for a side now missing the retired Miroslav Klose, Philipp Lahm and Per Mertesacker plus a raft of injured players — mattered little, though Löw tried to explain the halting efforts anyways.
"We didn’t score the second goal straightaway,"Löw said. "We did have chances, and we take the blame for that. Maybe our players lacked a little dynamism. It’s very difficult at this stage of the season in September. Players do get tired. Maybe in October, it will get better."
His side will likely need to improve at least a little to navigate safely through a difficult trip to Poland and another tricky home match against Republic of Ireland in quick succession next month. Both of those nations started their qualifying efforts with impressive victories on Sunday: Robert Lewandowski hit four in Poland’s 7-0 victory over the customs agents and policemen of Gibraltar, while Aiden McGeady struck a wonderful, last-minute winner to give the Irish a 2-1 win in Georgia.
Ireland may present an awkward test, but it is the all-too-familiar Bayern striker who inspires more trepidation at this point. Lewandowski is exactly the sort of potent and versatile threat capable of scaring and slicing apart the uncertain German defense. He holds the play up well and yet finds a way to tuck behind the line at points, too.
If Löw is genuinely concerned about the state of his back four, then he is not showing it. He offered cover for the Angel Di Maria-inspired defeat against Argentina in the buildup. He praised fullbacks Erik Durm and Sebastian Rudy (regularly deployed as a central midfielder for Hoffenheim) for their performances, but he also noted his desire to evaluate further options in the Bundesliga over the next few weeks. He said he trusted his group to sort out Lewandowski nevertheless even after Ikechi Anya, Steven Fletcher and Steven Naismith made Sunday night difficult.
"We’ll have to see what happens," Löw said. "Yes, we lacked certain players and certain players were missing: (Bastian) Schweinsteiger, (Sami) Khedira, (Mesut) Özil, (Mats) Hummels. We had to improvise. One or two players will be missing. That happens. We’ll be playing with different teams. At the World Cup, we had a team that was like one unit. They were all used to me. Logically, I have to see what options I have available to me. But am I worrying about it? Not really."
There really isn’t much of a reason to fret, though Hummels is a player this group can’t do without for extended periods. Germany will advance out of Group D and secure a place in France barring a collapse of the highest order. The qualification fixtures between now and next October serve as a period of experimentation to cultivate the sort of cohesiveness on display in Brazil and figure out the potential reinforcements for a squad in transition.
Löw possesses the luxury of integrating his new players into a group with several world class operators already present. Muller took another star turn with his double to save the day against the Scots, but there are other matchwinners in the side, too. The individual quality within the ranks - and Müller’s opportunism in the final third, in particular - always provides a safety valve if the cultured work in possession fails to yield the end product or if the defense falters when the opposition attempts to counter quickly against that high line.
This is not a side accustomed to the need for such heroics, though. Germany is used to functioning as a finely tuned machine, the sort of group capable of tearing apart a perfectly competent side like Scotland on home soil. This group is not there yet, not in this tattered state, at least. Löw will need to come up for air a few more times before he can dig into that sort of explanation once more.