Johor Darul Ta'zim are already storming to a 10th consecutive Malaysia Super League title -- so have they gotten even stronger?

Johor Darul Ta'zim will have to wait until 2021 to take the next step in continental football. Power Sport Images

It was probably already a foregone conclusion that Johor Darul Ta'zim would win the Malaysia Super League title once again in 2023.

For one, they have been champions for the past nine years running. Then, there is also the fact that they are undeniably the most formidable team in the land.

Few would have been brave enough to suggest another club would rise to the MSL summit this season.

But hope always springs eternal. Even if it's for three-quarters of a season, or even a few months, the prospect of a thrilling title battle or the emergence of formidable contenders to bring about even just a two-horse race would always be a welcome prospect -- especially to the neutrals.

And yet, just over a month into the new campaign and with just six rounds played, the MSL might as well hand the trophy over to the Southern Tigers already.

It is not just because JDT currently boast a perfect record and have established a five-point lead at the top in no time.

While it is the first time they have started a campaign with six straight wins, teams in other leagues all over the world have also accomplished such a feat previously and that did not always equate to guaranteed title success.

Instead, it is the manner which JDT won their past two outings that further enforce the notion they will be unstoppable again this year.

Against Selangor and then Sabah, two teams who have also made strong starts to the campaign and who were looming as the duo who could potentially give the defending champions a run for their money, the Southern Tigers proceeded to record emphatic 4-0 victories on both occasions.

It barely mattered that the matches were a fortnight apart. While other teams sometimes falter after the international break, JDT's momentum is a different force altogether.

So is it possible that a side who have their past nine domestic league crowns -- including pulling off a first-ever treble last term -- are even better in 2023?

They just might be.

An ageing defence that was exposed at the higher level that is the AFC Champions League -- Asia's premier club competition -- has been bolstered by former Swansea and Espanyol man Jordi Amat.

Although the Spanish-born Indonesia international is not exactly a new signing, his participation was restricted last term as a result of his mid-season arrival but he is now fully integrated in the side to the point he has been handed the captaincy.

While he is not the youngest at 31, Amat's sheer experience is already showing and could prove even more valuable in JDT's next ACL adventure.

Fellow fresh faces Juan Muniz and Diogo, the latter a former fan favourite back at the club for a second spell, have also hit the ground running -- combining for seven goals in the opening six rounds of the new MSL season.

They -- alongside Fernando Forestieri -- have offered the Southern Tigers fresh alternatives to goal and a newfound unpredictability in attack, to the point that it has barely mattered that Brazilian hitman Bergson da Silva, their top scorer over the past two campaigns with a staggering 52 goals, has only contributed to a solitary strike so far in 2023.

Nonetheless, perhaps JDT have also been a beneficiary of improvement from within.

And no one has epitomised this more than Arif Aiman.

Undeniably the hottest property in Malaysian football and a genuine rising star of Southeast Asia, Arif has electrified the scene since breaking through as an 18-year-old.

While a consistent contributor to the team overall, perhaps the one area where he could have improved on was his output -- as is the case with many a young player.

With just five league goals to his name previously, Arif has almost matched that tally already in 2023 having netted four times so far in a blistering start to the season, as the two-time MSL Most Valuable Player -- still only 20 -- looks to grow in influence at the club.

The dominance of JDT should not be seen as a slight on the likes of Sabah, Selangor and Kedah Darul Aman, who are all currently tied in second place on 13 points -- a commendable haul from the opening six rounds itself.

They have their own improvements to make and it may not necessarily spell a bad year even if they fail to legitimately challenge JDT for top honours.

Quite simply, JDT were already miles ahead of their next best competitors. And they are only getting better.