Spurs looked set for a frustrating start to 2022 as they struggled to break down a defensive Hornets side, but Davinson Sanchez headed home a stoppage-time free-kick to earn Conte’s side a precious three points.
Emerson Royal put in 13 crosses and Sergio Reguilon five, but few came to more than half-chances as Watford repelled wave after wave of a blunt Spurs attack.
The match followed a similar pattern to the second half of Spurs’ frustrating 1-1 draw with ten-man Southampton in their last game, leaving Conte calling for improvement.
“With these kind of games, if you can score early then the plan of your opponent has to change,” Conte said.
“We controlled the game and we had a lot of possession and in the first half I have seen the stats – and we made 29 crosses.
“We have to improve in the last pass, to have more quality because the last pass means whether you score or not.
“During the game, when you create chances to score, you have to try to exploit these chances, especially in this type of game where your opponent is well organised defensively, with nine or ten players behind the ball. It is not easy.
“I think we have a team that is very good when we find space to attack. When we find a team that is very narrow, and they defend very well with all the team behind the ball, we need to improve. I know we have space to improve. And also to improve the quality in the final pass.”
“When you play with this formation, for us the wing backs are very important,” Conte added.
“When the ball arrives there, we must be more effective. I know very well this is a role where you spend a lot of energy.
“You are a winger in possession and a full back without the ball. We have young players [there] with space for improvement.”
Hugo Lloris made a fine one-handed save to deny Joshua King on a rare Watford attack, and also bravely challenged Joao Pedro in another solid display.
“You can see the level of your keeper in these circumstances,” Conte said. “When for the whole game he didn’t make a save but he continued to be focused. To be focused for the team, for me that’s very important.
“Hugo today showed that he’s top and he’s always focused.
“For us, he’s very important and I’m sure that in a short time they can find a solution with the club [over his contract], because he loves Tottenham and Tottenham loves him.”