By Rob Kelly

Andre Santos admits that his spell on the sidelines “left a sour taste” because it meant that he could not help his team-mates.

The Brazilian defender sustained an ankle injury during the Champions League clash against Olympiacos in December and was ruled out for three months.

Santos is now fit again and was on the bench against Newcastle and Everton, but he views his time out injured as one of the most challenging periods of his career.

“It was very hard,” he told Arsenal Player. “When I found that I would need an operation it was very hard news to take. I was in the changing room when they told me and I cried.

“All of the players were trying to comfort me, but I was scared because I’d never been through this before and surgeries are never guaranteed to go 100 per cent well.

“But everything did go well and I have to thank Doctor Abdala from Sao Paulo and everyone here, Colin Lewin for example, who helped me with my treatment. Also Simon, Tony and Marcos, they were essential for my return.”

The 29-year-old’s absence was compounded by an injury to Kieran Gibbs, leaving the team with no natural left back for an extended period.

“Both Kieran and I were injured at the time. When you can see that the team needs you but there’s nothing you can do about it, well it gives you a sour taste,” Santos said.

“You want to help but it’s just impossible to do your job. But Arsenal has built a strong family and I believe that the players who filled in, like Ignasi Miquel and Thomas Vermaelen, did a great job.

“They were disciplined and followed the manager’s instructions very sharply, so I give a lot of credit to them.”

Santos has returned to a buoyant squad in the middle of a superb run of six successive league victories, and he believes a top-three finish is within Arsenal's grasp.

“We’ve got most of the injured players back in action now but we had very good back-up for these players as well,” he said. “It wasn’t easy for us but now the squad is stable and we’ll do our best to have a great final sprint.

“One hundred per cent [a top-three place] is our target, our main objective. It means automatic qualification for the Champions League and that is what we want.”

Watch the full interview with Andre on Arsenal Player soon.

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 23 Mar 2012